Researchers from the Center for Solar Energy Technologies of Fraunhofer Chile have conducted a comparative analysis which shows that the lowest levelized cost of energy (LCOE ) in Chile can be achieved by a combination of large scale PV and concentrated solar power (CSP).
The Cerro Dominador PV-CSP project in Chile.
Image: Ministerio de Bienes Nacionales/Flickr
A group of researchers from the Center for Solar Energy Technologies of Fraunhofer Chile has compared costs and prices of utility scale hybrid photovoltaic-concentrated solar thermal (PV-CSP) projects and thermal technologies based on natural gas, concluding that the most competitive configuration in terms of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) corresponds to a hybrid plant that combines photovoltaic solar energy and concentrating solar power (CSP) with integrated thermal storage.
In a study published in the scientific magazine Energies, the Chilean scientists found the LCOE of four different typologies of hybrid PV-CSP plants is lower than that of natural gas thermal power plants.
Their analysis showed that the best PV-CSP configuration, with 13 hours of storage and with no restrictions for power generation, achieved an LCOE of $53/MWh, while the natural gas technology evaluated, with a plant factor of 85% and a variable cost of fuel of $2/MMBtu has an LCOE of $86/MWh.
“Hybrid solar plants, under certain conditions, are more profitable than their closest competitor for the Chilean grid, and at the same time … they provide significant flexibility and dispatch capacity,” said researcher Aloïs Salmon.
“The CSP technology provides very similar systemic benefits while avoiding significant negative externalities, compared to gas plants, and is more profitable,” said research co-author María Teresa Cerda. “In particular, CSP is very flexible, has no emissions, and is not dependent on external markets for fuel supply. In short, it is a renewable energy that can contribute to reduce the price of the grid and provide a baseload and flexible electricity for Chile.”
Chile is currently hosting a considerable number of CSP projects under development. One of Chile’s major renewable energy projects is the Cerro Dominador solar complex, whose combined CSP and PV capacity is expected to reach 220 MW.